The High Court on Friday froze an account investigators say belongs to Garissa County Governor Nathif Jama Adam to allow the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to scrutinise transactions amounting to Sh5.2 billion over the last four years.
According to court filings, EACC believes the money, which is held in Mr Jama’s account in Nairobi’s South C branch of the First Community Bank, was fraudulently transferred from the county government of Garissa.
Justice Lydia Achode ordered the account be frozen for six months as investigations continue.
“The respondent, by himself or through his agents or servants, be and is hereby prohibited from transferring, disposing of, wasting, or in any other way dealing with First Community Bank Ltd South C branch (account number withheld) for a period of six months,” Justice Achode ruled.
The matter will be heard on July 30, 2017. First Community was served with the orders on Friday afternoon through its Wabera Street Branch.
Bank statements obtained by EACC investigators, and which the Nation has seen, indicate a total of 32 deposits amounting to Sh2,442,011,012.06 were made into the account between January 1, 2015 and May 20, 2016.
The bank statement accompanying sworn affidavits by anti-corruption investigators further indicates the account had a balance of Sh2.8 billion carried forward from 2014, bringing the total to Sh5.2 billion.
But what stands out, according to the court filings, are six large deposits all from the Garissa County Government totalling Sh2.3 billion.
On April 21, 2015, the statement indicates, Sh115 million was deposited in the account.
Two months later, on July 24, 2015, another Sh525 million was deposited directly through a Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transfer, the Central Bank of Kenya’s electronic payment system.
On November 4, 2015 the account was credited with Sh510 million while on March 31, 2016 the account received another deposit of Sh214 million.
On April 19, 2016 Mr Jama received Sh317 million while on May 5, 2016, multiple deposits were made into the account amounting to Sh622 million — the largest of the six transactions.
This is in addition to 26 other smaller but still significant deposits running into millions of shillings that were made into the account between January 2015 and May 2016.
On Saturday, efforts to reach Mr Jama to comment were fruitless.
He did not pick calls from the Nation or respond to text messages. However, the Star newspaper on Thursday reported that the governor, while speaking during a fundraiser for his re-election bid on Tuesday, disowned the bank statement.
He alleged his political rivals were out to tarnish his name.
“Even if they cook lies and propaganda, then they should do it professionally,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Earlier in the week, a leaked version of the bank statement was doing rounds on social media, but the EACC investigators told the court they had obtained the authentic copies of the statement which now form part of their court filings.
In an interesting twist, the EACC officials have in their court filings before Justice Achode used the Governor’s denial as one indication that “he is already aware of the ongoing inquiry into alleged fraudulent acquisition of public funds”.
OBTAINED GENUINE DOCUMENTS
EACC CEO Halakhe Waqo told the Nation the commission obtained genuine documents from the bank and confirmed the transactions took place in the Integrated Financial Management Information System, the automated system that handles all financial transactions in the national and county governments.
“We have carried out our investigations in a professional and legal manner,” he said. “We have obtained all the information within the law.”
The metamorphosing of what was initially dismissed as social media propaganda into a massive investigation with a court order marks a dramatic turn.
Mr Waqo said his officers are about to conclude investigations into allegations of financial impropriety by more governors.
“This (Jama’s case) is just the tip of the iceberg. We are closing in on more of his peers and soon we will be bringing them to justice,” he said.
Mr Waqo said that Mr Jama’s case should not be perceived as a political witch hunt during this political season.
“We are not targeting anyone for political reasons. In fact, we intend to bring the cases against many of the governors we are investigating after the elections are over. And if they leave office, they should not imagine that they will go scot free,” he said.
In a sworn affidavit, Mr Pascal Mweu, an EACC investigator, said preliminary investigations had uncovered the funds in the account.
“The respondent holds funds in excess of Sh5 billion in his First Community Bank South C Branch account the majority of which was transmitted from the Garissa County government account,” reads the affidavit.
The latest incident will add to the governor’s woes as he is battling other corruption allegations.
In 2015, he was charged, together with six former county tender committee members, with irregularly leasing ambulances for the county from the Kenya Red Cross.
He termed the case as a political witch-hunt by a top official of the Jubilee Party from Garissa. The case is ongoing. Mr Jama also survived attempts to impeach him brought in 2014 by MCAs accusing him of flouting procurement rules.
Mr Jama, who is vying on a Wiper Party ticket, will battle it out with former Permanent Secretary and his arch political rival Ali Bunow Korane in next month’s polls.
Before joining politics, Mr Jama was the chief executive officer of First Community Bank.
His critics accuse him of mismanaging the county and of failing to solve the acute water shortage that has hit the county for the past four years.
But Mr Jama has defended his record, saying his rivals have held senior positions in government and have no development record to run on.
“Actions speak louder than words,” he said at a political rally a fortnight ago. “My job is to better the lives of my people. If we coexist and put our efforts together, the rewards are enormous. My work is seen and I am headed for victory.”
The governor will also face off with Ahmed Aden Hire, one of his key allies in the 2013 General Election, who was until mid-last year County Executive Committee member for finance.
Mr Hire, who was sacked in July last year by the governor for “gross misconduct”, is vying on the Maendeleo Chap Chap party ticket.